An investigation has been opened by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration into a chemical leak that killed a deputy from Richmond County. The deputy was killed after responding to an alarm at Xytex Corporation, a sperm bank, in Augusta earlier in February.
The deputy worked for the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and had recently been honored for 30 years of service. He reportedly died after inhaling “an unknown chemical substance” upon arrival to Xytex Corporation for the alarm activation.
A HazMat team and the Augusta Fire Department were dispatched to the scene after someone reported to 911 a possible nitrogen leak. Upon entering the facility, the fire department and HazMat team found the deputy and an employee of the facility unresponsive. Both were transported to local hospitals for treatment. Aside from these two victims, three other deputies had to be treated at local hospitals in relation to the incident.
Firefighters and members of the HazMat team were able to shut off the liquid nitrogen tanks found on the site. No other first responders or employees were hurt in the incident.
The deputy who died as a result of the leak had been shot in the head during a drug raid in 2004 and almost lost his life.
The deputies who entered the facility upon arrival exited saying they were having trouble breathing. They were transported to Augusta University Medical Center. They were treated for their injuries and released.
Airgas is being investigated by the Georgia state Fire Marshal even though no leaks were found in the tanks at Xytex. Airgas supplies the nitrogen for the facility. Airgas and Xytex were cited last week by the Fire Marshal for not having a permit when the tanks were installed at Xytex and for not having them inspected prior to use.
The Fire Marshal believes that the tanks malfunctioned, which caused the nitrogen leak.
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Source: WJBF, “OSHA opens investigation after chemical leak kills Richmond County deputy, injures several others,” Feb. 06, 2017